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Discovery of asbestos blocks Elyria library renovation plan

  • Elyria-library-1-jpg

    The Elyria Public Library main location on Washington Avenue.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE FILE

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ELYRIA — The results of asbestos tests at the Elyria Public Library’s Central Branch has sidelined plans for a major renovation project there.

Director Lyn Crouse said the “heartbreaking” news came after the library hired an architect, revealed plans for the project and started a naming opportunities campaign. During pre-construction asbestos testing, contractors discovered the 50-year-old building on Washington Avenue is full of the fibrous material known to cause lung cancer after continued exposure. The discovery has stopped plans for renovation because asbestos is safest when intact and encased to prevent the material from becoming airborne.

Inhaled asbestos fibers aggravate lung tissues and cause them to scar. Symptoms of asbestosis include shortness of breath and a dry crackling sound in the lungs while inhaling.

“Before you do anything structural to a building this old, you have to test for asbestos,” Crouse said. “The good thing is the building is completely safe for patrons and staff as it is. We did very stringent air quality testing and found the material to be intact.”

However, asbestos abatement is costly. Crouse said the cost for the planned improvements at Central ballooned to seven figures.

“It quickly made the cost astronomical, so we have no plans to do the renovations,” Crouse said. “Instead, we will take this time to look at our facilities system wide.”

The construction plans of Elyria Schools also have prompted questions about library resources and opportunities on the south side of Elyria, especially as the Head Start program and library branch at the former Hamilton School will have to find new homes as the building will be demolished.

Crouse said the library subleases spaces through Head Start and has received a tentative date of July 1 to vacate.

“We have this news about Central while dealing with the immediate relocation of south branch,” she said. “We have reached out to community partners to see who has available space. We want to stay in the neighborhood because it’s an area that I believe needs us.”

The renovation plans would have transformed the central branch by relocating the local history and genealogy room from the first floor there to the second floor of the West River branch. Interior renovations at the Washington Avenue site were to include moving the Youth Services Department from the front to the back of the building, building a preschool area, adding a baby play-and-grow area and constructing a new gender-neutral family restroom, a quiet study and a teen tech center.

“We had such a beautiful plan, and we were working to keep the history of Elyria here at this building to go along with the city’s bicentennial,” Crouse said. “To stop that was quite a surprise.”

As a part of the planning, Crouse said the library has hired Burges & Burges Strategists to conduct surveys and gauge community wants and the law firm of Bricker & Eckler as special counsel to help with building financing.

Residents also can contact Crouse directly at lcrouse@elyrialibrary.org to become involved in the planning process.

“I would like to hear directly from the community what their vision of the library will be going forward for the next 50 years,” she said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.



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